As project owners and contractors adapt to the demands of the coming infrastructure boom, precast and prestressed concrete manufacturers will be forced to redefine the nature of the products they provide. They will have to deliver "Connected Concrete", concrete that can deliver information.
This is the third post in our series about the high stakes of infrastructure and how it will reshape the construction supply chain. The stakes for precast and prestressed concrete manufacturers:
Concrete products that do not deliver information will be marginalized.
Sounds crazy, right? But it isn't. Think about cars. The original value of a car was that it could get you from point A to point B more quickly than a horse. Now cars are mobile computers providing GPS mapping, notifications that it is time for service, blind spot warnings, automatic braking and hands-free parallel parking. What are the chances that anyone today will buy a new car that has no information processing? Zero.
It is not hard to see how this will happen to concrete in light of the developments we see unfolding in infrastructure construction:
- Smart Cities
- FHWA e-Construction initiative
- DOTs facing shrinking operating budgets and workforce attrition
All of these trends will result in greater connectedness... between parties in the construction supply chain and between the project owners and their products. Why? Because it will save money and make the projects more useful to the public.
There are over 614,000 bridges in the US. The average minimum cost of inspecting a bridge is $15,000 and they are typically inspected once every two years. The annual cost of inspecting bridges is therefore more than $4.6 billion primarily because the manual process of bridge inspection is highly inefficient.
Think of the operating efficiency to the DOT from a bridge containing concrete with sensors that can provide early warnings directly to its asset management group:
- Corrosion occurring in the concrete that is not visible
- Vibrations above tolerance (i.e., from a barge bumping a stanchion)
- Seismic activity occurring
- Excessive sway from high winds
Think about the value to the public from:
- Improved safety of a bridge that is constantly being monitored
- Decreased congestion from more frequent minor repairs (vs major overhauls)
- Warnings about congestion or weather-related issues
- Route optimization suggestions
Just as we think (at least I do) that we could not conceive of traveling without a GPS system, it will not be long until we cannot envision a world without "Smart Infrastructure".
The foundation of this infrastructure will, as always, be concrete. Manufacturers that are ahead of this curve will emerge as the new industry leaders.
Our purpose at Idencia is to offer precast RFID tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the value chain. Our subscription offering applies to products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn more, click below.